Dean ZollmanDepartment Head's Corner

Dean Zollman


Compared to last year we have had a relatively uneventful year during 2009. No tornadoes disrupted our teaching and research.  Our building has been repaired, everything is operating normally.  The State’s and University’s financial situation remains similar to that of the rest of the country.  However, the recent decreases in State budget have not caused much additional changes at our Departmental level.  Two weeks ago I was in California for a conference and heard much about the situation there.  We are certainly not facing the problems of the higher education system there (at least not yet).

K-State is undergoing some major changes at the upper administrative level.  President Kirk Schulz began his duties in mid-June.  One of his early actions was to welcome about 200 physicists to the Second International Conference on Attosecond Physics.  This conference attracted about 200 physicists, half of them from outside the US, to Manhattan for a week of talk, posters and discussions about very short pulsed, high intensity laser light interactions with matter.  The first conference in this series was in Dresden, Germany, two years ago.  The next one will occur in Japan in 2011.

Provost April Mason has been at KSU for only a couple of weeks.  She was previously a Dean at Colorado State.  We also have an Interim Dean for the College of Arts & Sciences.  Brian Spooner, who had been Director of the Division of Biology, will serve a two-year term in this role.

At the Departmental level we have had a few changes in personnel.  Matthias Kling has been appointed as an Assistant Professor.  Matthias’ research is in atomic-molecular-optical physics.  Matthias has been conducting research at the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics (MPQ) in Munich.  He has a very prestigious fellowship in Germany.  To allow him to continue that work and finishing mentoring students at MPQ, KSU has granted Matthias’ a leave-of-absence.  He and some of his students will be conducting research at the Macdonald Lab in parallel with his ongoing efforts in Munich.

Andrew Ivanov has also joined our faculty.  Andrew conducts research in high energy physics and will be part of our team that will be working on the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) experiment at the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva, Switzerland.  Andrew received his PhD from the University of Rochester in 2004.  Then he became a post-doc with the high energy group at the University of California, Davis.  During his post doc research he was located at FermiLab where he was involved in top quark physics and other related experiments. 

Igor Litvinyuk accepted an offer to found an intense laser at Griffith University in Australia.  He resigned from KSU at the end of the Spring 2009 semester.

Noel Stanton officially retired with the conclusion of the Spring semester.  Noel was one of the founders of the KSU High Energy Physics group.  He has been an active researcher and teacher since he arrived in 1993.  I use the word “officially” because Noel is still frequently in Cardwell Hall.  He has an office near the other High Energy faculty and is still working with students, including tutoring General Physics students.

We were saddened by the losses of two people close to the Department.  Marilyn Legg, wife of long-time faculty member and Department Head Jim Legg, died in May after an extended illness.  Jim and Marilyn had moved to Port Townsend, Washington, a few years ago.  Jim still lives there.  Bob Geering, a retired Physics Department machinist, died in December as a result of a fall.  Bob’s wife, Judy, survives and is living in Wamego.  Longer obituaries for each of them can be found in this newsletter.

Our students continue to do well.  Once again two of our undergraduates, Frank Male and Eric Stalcup, were selected to be finalists for the Goldwater Scholarship.  Both Eric and Frank conducted undergraduate research under the mentorship of Bruce Law.  Eric received an honorable mention.  As I have noted in previous newsletters, the physics students receive a very high percentage o f these honors but are only a small fraction of those eligible.

Nora Johnson, a graduate student, received a Fulbright Fellowship and is spending this year at the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics in Munich.  Her research which is directed by Itzik Ben-Itzhak is related to the interaction of high intensity laser light with atoms.

The numbers of undergraduates majoring in physics has increased somewhat dramatically.  This Fall we had over 20 first year students declare physics as a major.  It is the largest freshman class that I can remember in my long time at KSU.  We began the Fall semester with 70 graduate students.  Several finished in time for the December graduation.  Our graduate students continue to be a highly diverse group and come to Manhattan from all continents except Australia.  The number of US citizens or permanent residents has increased recently.

Faculty have continued to be honored by KSU.  Amit Chakrabarti received the Distinguished Graduate Faculty Award for 2009.  Recipients of this award must demonstrate high quality graduate-level teaching and mentoring as well as research.  Certainly, Amit has excelled in all of these areas.

Chris Sorensen was selected as the second Cortelyou-Rust Professor.  This endowed chair is a University-wide position.  Thus, Chris was selected from among some of the best faculty in all disciplines at K-State.  The chair was previously held by Pat Richard, so it has been in the Physics Department since its inception in 1991.

We were able to appoint two of our faculty to endowed chairs within the Department.  A few years ago, Franklin A. and Elizabeth Chapin Burke created an endowed professorship to honor Mrs. Burke’s parents Ernest K. and Lillian E. Chapin.  Ernest Chapin was a long-time member of our faculty, retiring in the 1960s.  We have been able to make two appointments to the Chapin chair – Brett Esry and Zenghu Chang.

Research activities are discussed in detail in many of the articles in this newsletter.  Here a just a few of the highlights.  Last year, I noted that we had begun a new initiative in condensed matter physics.  That program is continuing.  You may read about Robert  Szoszkiewicz’ research elsewhere in this newsletter. 

We also have a significant presence at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Geneva, Switzerland.  The LHC has just restarted after a few glitches last year.  New physics should be coming in the future and K-State will be part of that effort. 

Just as I started writing this message, we received notification that the Department of Energy will be renewing the grant to the Macdonald Lab for another three years.  Thus, our significant effort in atomic, molecular and optical physics with a focus on high intensity lasers will continue.

As always the support from our alumni and friends continues to be important.  Most monetary gifts are channeled directly to support the successes of our students. Your support of undergraduate scholarships and research forms the foundation for the funds that we can provide to students.  We have also benefited from endowments for brining in speakers and now have three lecture series. As mentioned above, endowed professorships are also extremely valuable.  

Even if you cannot provide funds, you can support our Department.  If you know good students who have an interest in physics steer them in our direction.  We would be happy to share our excitement about physics with them.

For all of the help, support and encouragement, thank you.